MSRP: $49.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 585 minutes
• Audio Commentary (ep 10)
• “The Making of Primeval” featurette (45 min)
• “Through the Anomaly” featurette (40 min)

The Pitch

What if Crichton’s Lost World came through King’s Mist?

The Humans

Douglas Henshall (leader nerd), James Murray (pretty boy nerd), Andrew Lee Potts (geeky nerd), Lucy Brown (buxom sweetie), Hannah Spearritt (tomboy herpetologist nerd), Juliet Aubrey (antagonistic & mysterious estranged wife of leader nerd).

Fortunately for the producers of E! True Hollyrock Story, exclusive footage of Fred Flintstone’s drunk driving spree had been uncovered. Ratings have never been better. The Flintstone family’s dishwasher (and accomplice), however, was not available for comment.

The Nutshell

BBCX-Files science staff attempt to predict and contain time-space rifts from which better-than-TV-quality pre/post-historic “Monsters of the Week” pour out and terrorize everyday UK. If this premise doesn’t appeal to you, it’s probably because you went back in time to step on your inner-child.

The Lowdown

“I’m finished with the past… I just don’t know if it’s finished with me…”

As a dino/monster nut (I have my own “Lost Worlds” dvd section at home, which co-mingles with my “Giant Ape” section) and as a fan of pulpy sci-fi, this show had been on my radar long before it was delivered Stateside. I was warned that it was simply rubbish*, but the ½  of me that slums with Pterodactyl and Mammoth on the Sci-Fi Channel got together with the other ½ that marvels at Discovery Channel’s “speculative documentaries” like Walking with Dinos and Alien Planet and my will was not my own. Due to not having Tivo (and having a 4 year old), I missed its USA BBC America debut in August. Fortunately for me, CHUD got a hold of this screener and I enthusiastically volunteered for the fossil dig. But can it possibly live up to my immature expectations and low standards?

“YES, the kickass truck parked in the driveway with the vanity plate reading “Pussy Wagon” is mine… and NO, I don’t think Snookums would approve of you borrowing it.”

In TV Dinoland, Primeval falls somewhere between Dinotopia and Surface in tone. Not quite as silly or fantastical as the former, and not as self-serious or globe-trotting as the latter. The science on display is pulpy, but present (in the accessible Crichton/Benchley/Alten way), the character types are standard and thin (AKA cardboard), and the individual plots resemble a smaller-scaled Emmerich-directed blockbuster (forget that Stargate spawned a series and that the American Godzilla was based on a previous property and then genetically splice them together). If you’re still reading this, and the prelim summarized execution hasn’t scared you off, we’ll continue…

Apparently typical, this British show produced for ITV by Impossible Pictures is broken into series much smaller (6-7 eps) than the domestic US season, keeping the pacing brisk and the commitment/budget smaller. My only complaint with this approach is they felt compelled to pop in a ballsy “Sound of Thunder” sized game-changer 6 episodes in (Series 1 finale) when I was just starting to connect with the characters. Those kinds of twists are usually reserved for the tail end of a 24 episode season in any American genre show, for comparison.

9 out of 10 shark hunters agree that Kintner Boyâ“’ brand chum is the most effective for luring man-eating cartilaginous fish. And just look at that bright white smile!

As a warning, while the cast (overseen by a sorta MIB/BPRD/SU2) isn’t chasing rampaging beasts or being chased by rampaging beasts, they’re stressing over “who fancies** who?” and “is so-and-so going to get sacked*** this week?”  The under-written soap opera antics are predictable, but fortunately, not the focus. Espionage, paradoxes, and the pixie-cute Abby in panties (flat’s temp is high for her lizards) are sprinkled throughout the entirety of the 13 episodes. To their credit, the show’s creators have actually packed in some speculative science-fiction via the dino behavior (and by riffing on the theory of evolution), and through the inclusion of creatures from our possible future. What really makes this show work is seeing such odd zoological marvels juxtaposed against normal settings (swimming pool, basement, bowling alley, freeway, etc) ala The Giant Behemoth, Beast from 20K Fathoms, Mighty Joe Young, and other stop-motion classics I adore.

“Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things… across from the Cinnabon and catty-corner to the Chick-fil-A…”

Since the show was created by the Walking with… gang (who also created the missing links, Chased by Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Park), Primeval features some of the best CGI beasties inhabiting any TV show and most TV movies (I’m looking at you, SciFi Channel) that aren’t Hallmark born. They’re designed, modeled, animated, and composited with aplomb. I dig the fact that they chose such a wide variety of creatures (giant insects, prehistoric mammals, etc) and attempted to stay away from the best known for their first couple series (they did slip in fan-fave raptors, however). I am also thrilled that they stretched the imagination and created some Future is Wild esque crypto-predators as well and can’t wait to see what surfaces in future installments. No Skull Island denizens or Land of the Lost rejects yet, but give ‘em some time.

It’s BBC TV, so you know that Primeval lacks both the bombastic budget of Bay and the storytelling savvy of Spielberg, but it’s decent and harmless escapist fun. I can’t explain how a Mutant Enemy/Bad Robot geek like me isn’t too jaded to enjoy derivative B-level TV entertainment with passable characterization, dialogue, and plotlines, but… did I mention it has dinosaurs in it? And that they use the Wilhelm scream at least once an episode? It’s just scientifically impossible for the geeky kid in me to hate it. In fact, I (er… the geeky kid in me) can’t wait for Series 3, which is luckily in production.

“The Beard” discovered in the audience tested & approved final cut of his Crichton adaptation that Velociraptors are scarier in the kitchen than Dodos. Who knew?

The Package

The set contains the complete Series 1 & 2 (13 45min episodes) on 4 discs, but for some reason, this “screener” was shipped in single white envelopes (cheap cunts****) instead of the set in which the retail version undoubtedly comes. The cover image seen above works fine, but I can’t judge the packaging on any more than that. I’ll have to make my own case I guess (BBC Warner, drop me a line, if you have a spare one).

Audio/Video: The picture is a bit grainy in certain shadowy scenes of early episodes (shot on vid perhaps? compression?), but finds its groove soon enough. The music is appropriate for the style of show (I’m reminded of a Bruckheimer production when listening) and the sound presentation is clear.

Extras: There’s an informative commentary on one of the episodes and 2 hearty featurettes, further revealing the “making of” process of this scrappy and ambitious (for BBC) show. The passion and pride for this non-Dr.Who genre output is clearly evident behind the scenes.

6.0 out of 10 for the discriminating TV watcher
8.0 out of 10 for the dino-fan (ME)

Has Daddy found some new Sci-Fi TV eye candy? You bet Jurassic!

*British for “dentistry”.
**British for “wouldn’t mind getting my kit off for a quick shag”.
***British for “terminated” (fired, not the T-100 kind), but I kinda wish “sacked” was synonymous with that scene from Casino Royale, where a tortured 007 is tied to a chair.
****British for “cunts”.